A small team representing the American company went to Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, to meet with officials and tell them what they had to offer. “We don’t want to stop people from using the internet, we want to control it,” the American defense consultant said the Uzbek general in charge of the procurement told one of his colleagues.
It was by any measure a memorable trip. In the evening, the defense consultant and his colleagues walked around the city, taking in the modern luxury hotels and Soviet-era Brutalist architecture. Knowing the Uzbek government would monitor foreign visitors whom it suspected of being spies or involved in political activities, the group made sure to keep to the main streets, so it wouldn’t appear they were trying to do anything secretive. (There were even stranger aspects to the trip: At one point, the consultant recalled, the Uzbek hosts sent prostitutes to his group’s hotel; the women were turned away by hotel security.)